Rep. Chris Lee resigns from Congress amid photo scandal

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GOP Rep. Chris Lee resigned from Congress "effective immediately" late this afternoon after Gawker published flirtatious emails and a photo of him posing shirtless that he had apparently sent to a women he met on Craigslist.

The New York congressman, who is married, apologized for his actions in a statement released late this afternoon.

"I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents," Lee said in the statement. "I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes, and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness."

Lee, who was re-elected for a second term last year, said the country's challenges are "too serious for me to allow this distraction to continue" and that he would leave his seat immediately.

On Wednesday, Gawker published several emails Lee apparently sent to a 34-year-old Maryland woman who had posted a dating ad on Craigslist last month.

The woman, who was not named, wrote in her ad that she was looking for "financially & emotionally secure" man who didn't look like a "toad." A man identifying himself as Christopher Lee responded to her ad, describing himself as a 39-year-old divorced lobbyist and a "very fit fun classy guy." In a subsequent email exchange, Lee sent a photo of himself flexing bare-chested before a mirror.

The woman approached Gawker with the story after she had searched Lee's name online and discovered he was lying about his age, his job and his marital status.

When approached about the story, a spokesman for Lee initially told Gawker that the congressman believed his email had been hacked.

Lee's resignation will automatically trigger a special election in his Western New York district, though the exact timing of the ballot is up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

(Photo of Lee via the congressman's House website)